The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a 105-98 gut-wrenching loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last night. After trailing by as much as 14 points they were able to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but were unable to score when it mattered most. Lou Williams led the team with 31 points and five assists. Tonight they travel to Utah and take on the Jazz.
The Jazz are entering tonight’s matchup with two straight losses. They will look to get back on track against a team they have had success against this season. A young foundation, anchored by Gordon Hayward, has things looking bright in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz backcourt is currently held down by George Hill and Gordon Hayward. Hill, who missed the last meeting with the Lakers, is enjoying a career year for the Jazz. He is currently averaging 18 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He is able to drive to the basket and create for his teammates. He should not be overlooked from behind the arc, where he is currently shooting 41.7 percent from that distance. The Lakers guards have their work cut out for them tonight against Hill.
Hayward is one of the best two-way players in the league. Against the Lakers this season he is averaging 27 points, 7.5 rebounds, and four assists. He is such a matchup problem because he can do everything on the court. His basketball IQ is very high and makes very few mistakes on the floor. Luol Deng will have to try and make things difficult for him tonight.
Shelvin Mack and Alec Burks come off the bench for the Jazz. Mack has played well against the Lakers and can create for his teammates. He must be accounted for when he is on the court. Burks has only played in 11 games this season but has produced quite well in those games. He is averaging 5.8 points on 48.9 percent shooting.
With D’Angelo Russell out, Jose Calderon has been inserted into the starting lineup. While he is a smart player, he is unable to keep up with the more explosive guards of today’s NBA. That is not to say he can’t be on the floor, but he creates a mismatch for an already struggling defensive team.
Even more of the scoring load has been placed on Nick Young, Clarkson, and Williams recently. They have done a great job of trying to keep the Lakers afloat, but they need more help from their teammates.
Williams and Clarkson continue to be offensive weapons off the bench and are often on the court late in games. They need to continue to play at a high level for the Lakers to be competitive. Tonight against the Jazz, all three need to score and take care of the basketball for the Lakers to have chance to win the game.
As Rodney Hood continues to rehab from a hyperextended knee suffered last week Joe Ingles has joined Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert to make up the Jazz frontcourt. Hood is listed as questionable for tonight’s game.
Ingles is one of the league’s best shooters percentage-wise as he makes nearly 45 percent from three-point range. He made some timely shots against the Lakers the last time these teams played each other. So the Lakers know they need to keep an eye on him.
Gobert has absolutely torched the Lakers in recent meetings and many believe he should be an All-Star this year. No Lakers’ big man can seem to box him out and grab a rebound. If the Lakers have a chance at winning tonight they need to keep Gobert off the glass and not let him get easy scores around the basket.
Favors uses his large frame to make his way toward the basket. He is pretty agile and can move quite well for a player his size. Against the Lakers this season he is averaging 11.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Julius Randle will need his strength to try and minimize Favors’ impact on the game.
Off the bench, the Jazz have Boris Diaw, Trey Lyles, and Joe Johnson. Johnson can score the ball, although not as efficiently as he used to but still requires attention on the offensive end. The Lakers will pay if they leave him wide open, so it is important to make him work for his baskets. Lyles and Diaw are real solid for Utah. Each knows what to do when they are out on the court and they do it well. Diaw uses his high IQ while Lyles uses his athleticism to make an impact on a game.
The starting frontcourt is dealing with a bit of a change tonight as Julius Randle is dealing with a viral infection and Tarik Black will take his place in the starting lineup next to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Randle will be available off the bench if needed, but someone will definitely need to step up for the starters as there is a severe lack of playmakers.
Black, Zubac, and Nance Jr. have given the Lakers quality minutes on the floor. Black and Nance Jr. continue to provide energy and hustle when the Lakers need it. Zubac has played better than expected and as result has found in the rotation as of late. Hopefully he continues to improve as the season move forward. Ingram still struggles with consistency at the offensive end, but continues to find other ways, like rebounding and defense, to make an impact.
Three Keys To Victory
Rebound the Ball
In past meetings Gobert has given the Lakers fits on the glass and if they want to win tonight they must do a decent job of keeping his rebound total a minimum. By securing rebounds the Lakers can get their offense rolling and hopefully create some easy scoring opportunities.
Play a Full 48 Minutes
The Lakers biggest problem is being unable to play a complete basketball game. They start the game off well but usually sputter in either the second or third quarter, and have to crawl their way back into the game. Against a team like Utah they cannot let that happen because they will take advantage and put the game out of reach.
When the Lakers play without over thinking, they usually play pretty well. When they start dribbling too much and being indecisive they find themselves in trouble. That has led to bad offensive possessions that result in a low percentage shots. Being efficient will help the Lakers commit less turnovers, which will result in better offensive possessions.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-33) Vs. Utah Jazz (29-18)
7:30 P.M. PST, January 26, 2017
Vivant Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: George Hill
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, Shelvin Mack, Alec Burks, and Boris Diaw
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Tarik Black
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, Tarik Black, and Brandon Ingram